Housing News Roundup: August 4, 2015
After Natural Disasters, Aid Often Does Not Reach the Neediest
Low-income families are often the biggest victims of environmental disasters. Not only is their housing often more vulnerable to extreme weather, but research shows low-income families are often the slowest to recover. A decade after Katrina, many such families are still unable to rebuild because they cannot afford to comply with post-storm building standards. Hurricane Sandy displaced half of the city’s public housing residents and many victims did not receive relief dollars until more than two years later. The costs associated with displacement, including owning uninhabitable property, paying extra rent, and paying out of pocket for essentials, can be disastrous for low-income families.
Cuyahoga County Pursuing Thousands of Demolitions
In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, approximately 22,000 houses were vacant in the last quarter of 2014. The homes extend across the county’s neighborhoods, from expensive suburban areas to more affordable neighborhoods. “Yes, indeed there are [abandoned houses]. And they’re everywhere, not just in neighborhoods that you think,” explains Cleveland Heights Mayor Dennis Wilcox. Vacant properties in the outer suburbs tend to be restored first, while neighborhoods in the city or inner-ring continue to suffer from blight. Jim Rokakis of the Western Land Reserve Conservancy explains “You might think you’re safe because you live in a suburb…but the reality is, it’s the loss of value in the city and the inner ring suburbs that has driven property taxes up for people all over the county. It’s destabilizing these neighborhoods and that destabilization tends to migrate outwards.” Experts believe approximately 10,000 homes need to be demolished throughout the county.
Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer
New Study: Housing Vouchers Effective at Ending Family Homelessness
The Family Options Study, led by Abt Associates, is analyzing the effectiveness of various homelessness interventions over the course of three years. Programs being studied include rapid rehousing, traditional housing and emergency shelters, and permanent housing subsidies through vouchers. Eighteen months into the research, vouchers have already stood out as a particularly successful program. Edwin Lowndes, executive director of the Kansas City Housing Authority, explains “We see that families are more likely to obtain stable housing when they have a long term subsidy. They are able to focus on other aspects in their lives once they have stability in their housing.” Families receiving vouchers are less likely to be employed, a downside that will be further explored in the study.
Source: KCUR Radio
Suburban and Segregated
Cornell sociologist Daniel Lichter analyzed population shifts as recorded in the U.S. Census since 1990, and concluded that white and black Americans still largely live apart from one another. Ferguson, MO and McKinney, TX are examples of suburban places where black Americans have moved in recent years. Despite a move to suburbs, these black households tend not to have many white neighbors because white populations appear to be subsequently moving into their own isolated suburbs. The researchers note that civic institutions, such as police forces and school boards, tend to take longer to shift and reflect their new constituencies, a pattern that Lichter believes may be one of the causes of recent racial tensions.
Source: Pacific Standard
Tucson Neighborhoods in Crisis Due to Abandoned Homes
Abandoned homes in Tucson, Arizona are bringing blight and crime to neighborhoods throughout the city. Many properties are owned by banks, and have fallen into complete disrepair, with one home boasting a mini landfill in the backyard. City inspectors report that it is more difficult than it may seem to track down property owners to fix a property’s code violations. Michael Wyneken, the interim code enforcement administrator of the city, says “In a lot of these cases, the homes were lost by the owner in the recession. We’ve actually had homes where the ownership of the property, just as we’re trying to track down the owner, changed hands four to five times in a matter of months.” In particular, Wyneken says banks are hard to work with when it comes to ensuring they maintain foreclosed properties.
Source: Tuscon News Now